Spiral: NEW Apps for Collaboration (GDPI 811)

I found a seemingly brand new set of collaborative apps!  It appears that the company launched their platform in late 2015.

Spiral is very attractive to me, a classroom teacher because it looks so easy to use that even young students can use it – and it’s FREE.  I have had difficulty finding something that is PYP aligned and truly supports collaborative learning. I found it while searching for interactive apps to use with a class set of laptops of iPads.  This application can be used on any device with an internet connection.

An introduction to the concept is found here.

Another introduction can be viewed here.


It has three different uses:

  1. Quickfire – enhances real time question and answer sessions.  I see this as a great tool for introducing a topic and probing for prior knowledge, as well as follow up after a topic has been taught in open ended quiz form.
  2. Discuss – encourages students to share ideas with each other.
  3. Team up – provides a collaborative learning platform for students to jointly make a simple presentation with a variety of different media tools, directly from one ‘team iPad’ that acts as a remote control for the team project as it is projected for the class to see on a large communal screen.

Quickfire Youtube Video:


I think these apps are great.  I have been searching for something exactly like this for a long time: a simple platform that will allow for a multitude of levels and uses.

I like that in Quickfire the teacher can review student work before posting them, and that when posted, they’re anonymous responses unless the teacher hovers a cursor over the work.

Team up seems like a really great quick and easy tool for use in a double block period or a short time presentation tool.  I can see that this tool could be really useful for things like giving each small group an individual but related topic: separate seasons for research, separate global events, separate animals, separate climates etc.  These could then be compared and used as starting points for future discussions.  I think that a Team up presentation could end with a question, where every student could use Discuss to try to answer, or a pop quiz in Quickfire to check for understanding.

A review by the Educational App Store gives it 4 stars and ranks it highly!

I can’t wait to have a classroom of my own, and some devices, to try these out!


App Tested: Pear Deck vs. Nearpod

An amazing comparison between Nearpod and Peardeck!

Mr. Kamrowski


With the popularity of one-to-one classrooms, and the ensuing demonizing of the lecture as a pedagogical method, software to make lectures/direct instruction more interactive have developed.  Pear Deck and Nearpod are the two software companies that have become popular in this field (You can watch their promotional/informational advertisements here and here).  Both of these apps allow a teacher to embed formative assessments, engaging activities, and teacher analytics into a slide deck.  The days of using just powerpoint, keynote, or google slides are over.

In the last few months of the 2014-15 school year, I tested the paid version of Pear Deck in my one-to-one iPad classes.   I used the premium version as a free trial.  This summer, I played with Nearpod to compare the two.  In the fall, I would like to select one of the free versions of the two as my go to software…

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Peardeck vs Nearpod? A stalemate. (GDPI 811)

Upon researching the multitude of features that Nearpod has to offer, the application Peardeck popped into the radar as another very useful tool.  www.peardeck.com is almost the exact same as Nearpod but I think it might even be better in a few ways (possibly not up to snuff in some ways too)!  It seems to be a little more seamless than Nearpod.  I can’t wait to try it in a classroom.

Peardeck has frictionless Google integration – teachers who use Google apps for Education and create live files in Drive, can actually invite classroom sections to participate in a live online presentation through Peardeck.  I only have limited experience with Google applications for education, but this seems like a really winning attribute for high school teachers who need to keep their student logs straight. One of the best parts of Peardeck (and Nearpod too) is that the link/presentation remains open as long as the teacher wants, so students can review it for homework at night if they didn’t understand, or the teacher can assign an activity that becomes a homework assignment.  Teachers have the ability to pause the slide show and have it hover on one slide, so that students who access the classroom link can only see the slide the teacher chooses to show.

Nearpod has integrations for website links, but I like Peardeck’s system a little better.   A teacher can create a slide in the program that has a link.  Students will then be able to physically tough the link on their own devices and be able to read and report back about the content.  A slide might say: You have 10 minutes to click the following link, read the webpage, decide the most important parts about it and summarise it into three sentences, write those sentences and post about it.  This activity is inquiry-led and forces students to participate because their responses are public.

I wonder what other amazing features of Peardeck I’ll find, and how they might be best used for young learners.  These programs are amazing, but would really require a teacher-magician in order to make them effective in lower-elementary classrooms.


PearDeck Intro Youtube Video

Google Drive seamless with PearDeck

Importing Powerpoint Presentations to PearDeck

A great blog post to compare the two!

Another Great Comparison on a Blog (copied comparison below)

 Peardeck  Nearpod
Easily connects to your Google Drive where you can import Google Slide Presentations or PDFs to your class. You have a library on their website as well as other presentations available to buy or download
Creating a set of cards is easy Creating the presentation is easy
Can add slides on the fly as you present
Multiple Choice questions don’t have to have a correct answer More options for student response

  • Polls
  • Multiple choice
  • Short constructed response
  • Drawings
Youtube videos can be used in free version Movies in free version will need to be on your computer and uploaded
Can present a different screen to the class than is on the student devices Data is available online-including the students’ drawings and responses. It is stored in reports.

Comparison sourced from Aurora Public Schools “Tech”niques Blog : https://mrrobkamrowski.wordpress.com/2015/07/06/app-tested-pear-deck-vs-nearpod/

Another easy to understand, visual comparison on a blog HERE!

The competition seems to have ended in a stalemate: it depends on your teaching style and needs to be able to choose between the two!  Peardeck has on the fly creation but Nearpod has more student response options.  Peardeck imbeds YouTube videos for free but Nearpod uploads your offline videos for free.  Peardeck has a dot on a map feature, Nearpod has better drawing options. Both integrate with Google, but Peardeck is more seamless.  Nearpod goes with Dropbox!  Both are easy to use in a browser, but Nearpod has dedicated apps on all devices (phones etc).  Nearpod allows you to import PPT, PDF and Google Slides for free, you have to pay in Peardeck. Nearpod offers immediate analytics for teachers for free, you have to pay in Peardeck. Nearpod has  lessons that can be assigned for homework.


Nearpod in the Classroom (GDPI 811)


Have you heard of Nearpod?  It’s a revolutionary teaching tool that is taking classrooms by storm.  I first heard about and saw it in use at an IB PYP workshop in Hong Kong about Digital Citizenship.  The instructor chose to use something more interesting than powerpoint for the duration of the course: Nearpod.

It is an online interactive internet presentation tool that links the students directly with the learning through their personal digital devices including smartphones, tablets, and laptops on any platform. The instructor creates a rudimentary powerpoint-like presentation but then adds in links, maps, polls, refections, learning checks, quizzes, homework links and much more to make the learning authentic and tangible.

The instructor used the exact same presentation for the two day long course: he merely started at a slide in the middle after breaks.  It would be great for an entire unit, especially in high school where students are more technologically savvy. A history teacher for example, can imbed a map, ask a question about the reason for a historical uprising at the beginning of a unit.  Students have a minute or two to write a sentence through their own device and once they’re finished, responses are public and show up on the projected teacher’s screen for everyone in the class to see, and benefit from.

Likewise, this can be used in an elementary classroom in a similar way on a smaller scale. If the teacher plays a piece of music or reads a book, the students can reflect on how it made them feel.  A classroom full of students logged on to iPads with the Nearpod application running in the same classroom entry code location, can easily participate in similar ways.  Instead of asking young learners to respond using text, they can use the tablet to draw a picture about how they feel. Within a few minutes the teacher screen is full of community pictures relating to the lesson.

In addition to the text and picture responses, Nearpod has so many more functions.  There’s a thumbs up thumbs down poll to check for understanding and graphs that show the results of small quizzes so the teacher (and class) can see how much understanding is happening.

It’s as easy to create as a powerpoint – definitely not complicated like Prezi, or creating a Powtoon, or even Glogster.

In any case, I highly recommend a look.  The best part is that it hijacks all of the devices in your classroom and puts the lesson directly on them so students are forced to pay attention!


YouTube Video of Intro to Nearpod for Teachers

Re-invention, Reflection (GDPI 811)

When teaching, or learning to be a teacher, rather, one always hears ‘You don’t have to re-invent the wheel!’ but I beg to differ.  I have re-invented the wheel so many times, I have an entire dropbox full of resources to prove it.

I have a love-hate relationship with the Primary Years Program (IB PYP), my former school and the Ontario Curriculum.

The PYP is an amazing tool for learning, especially in international schools with a wide variety of cultural diversity and educational backgrounds among the students.  It provides a broad framework for schools and classrooms to foster their own learning environment to suit the needs of the local students and area. It is truly an amazing sight to see students interacting with their immediate surroundings and learning applicable knowledge that is relevant to their lives.  However, the teacher, in many cases, has to put significant effort into bulking up and building brand new resources for their students.  It is helpful if the school is established, but many schools, like my former school, are in the transitioning phase and likely floundering with the daunting task of shaping an independent curriculum on their own.  In many cases the administration doesn’t really end up helping and the buck falls to the teachers.

The Ontario Curriculum is full of strands and mandatory learning tasks for students.  They are well thought out and copious.  They are built in a way where the learning objectives can be the same in every classroom, but the method and lessons to achieve the objectives are open to individual teacher preferences.  This is both good and bad.  Teachers have the freedom to choose their own teaching methods, but in many cases they have to create their own resources on their own.  Textbooks touch on different topics but don’t necessarily cover all of the required strands.  This leaves the teacher with the task of creating or locating other resources to suit her possibly diverse classroom.

After teaching the better part of a year using the British National Curriculum, I have a wider knowledge of other teaching systems. The BNC is extremely rigid, to the point of exhaustion.  Abacus is the name of the mathematics curriculum and every day of every week is planned with 3 levels of differentiation, to the minute – with warm up games and full content suggestions.  It’s quite exhaustive.  The literacy curriculum is similar, with printouts, questions and specific activities that every classroom can use in relation to specific suggested books on a reading list, many available online.

It takes hours to read what the BNC suggests for daily teaching.  It takes hours to research the best lines of inquiry and activities with great summative assessments for the PYP.  It takes a lot of effort to create your own hands on activities to correspond to the Ontario curriculum – especially when it seems like a teacher culture of hoarding personal resources.

So which is best?


There is re-invention for each.